Bake: The ultimate brownie recipe

Who can resist a recipe for gorgeously gooey morsels of fudgy chocolate?

To kick off Irish Times Food Month our resident bake expert Vanessa Greenwood has cooked up some delicious peanut butter chocolate brownies. Pictures: Harry Weir

 

Who can resist a recipe for gorgeously gooey morsels of fudgy chocolate with ingredients you’ll likely have in your pantry? If you own a bakery, coffee shop or restaurant, a nice brownie will be a top seller, same as at home.

I think every baker has made brownies at least once – even if just from a supermarket packet mix. My sister used to swear by a particularly good-quality one producing superb brownies and it was full of natural ingredients, but scanning the instructions on the back, the only convenience was the time saved weighing up flour, sugar and cocoa powder, she still needed to buy and measure out the butter and eggs. (However, with first-hand experience of play dates and the excitement of baking at home with lots of little ones wearing school uniforms wanting to crack eggs, dip fingers in the sugar and lick the spoon, turning your back on the chaos to measure flour on the scales can be a challenge. I can see the hey-presto appeal of a fuss-free packet mix.)

Scrumptious brownies are guaranteed to melt hearts after a tiff or the ultimate indulgent treat to share on a walk or after a match; they’re great for the school cake sale too. So deliciously rich and easy to bake, true brownie enthusiasts obsess about texture, perfecting their chewy fudge centres without compromising a light crunchy top.

I have friends who have different recipes for different occasions, from simple everyday brownies with chopped walnuts to gluten-free versions substituting ground almonds for flour. It’s a short hop to the dazzling realms of decadent triple-chocolate chip brownies but it won’t be long before the purse is a bit light on spare change. Having said that, substituting some luxury cocoa powder for chocolate will save a few pennies.

If you want a new epic brownie, or to pimp up your regular recipe, forfeiting the lightly crisp topping for an artistic swirl of something delicious will give that gourmet look. With peanut butter sandwiches no longer gracing school lunchboxes, peanut butter is now a treat at home and my reason for making these brownies as our new favourite home bake – they also keep brilliantly in an airtight container for up to a week. Four by four is the only way to cut them (nice and small) just be quick – they’ll be gone before they are cool enough to eat.

Peanut butter chocolate brownies

Makes 16

  • 250g plain chocolate (55 per cent cocoa solids)
  • 250g butter, cubed, at room temperature
  • 200g caster sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 175g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 120g peanut butter, heated to soften

Method: Preheat oven to 170°C fan (180°C conventional). Line a 8in square baking tin (deep brownie tin) with parchment paper.

Melt the chocolate in a bain marie (a medium bowl set over a pan of simmering water) and once half melted, add in the cubed butter and stir until well blended.

Remove the melted chocolate from the heat and beat in the sugar and salt using a handwhisk. Set aside to cool for five minutes before stirring in the eggs to a smooth batter.

Meanwhile, sieve the flour and baking powder together and in two batches, fold the sieved ingredients into the chocolate mixture.

Pour the mixture evenly into the prepared tin. Before baking, drop spoonfuls of peanut butter on top, then using a small spatula, lightly draw the peanut butter through the surface to create a swirl.

Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 25-30 minutes or until slightly crispy on the top. When baked, the mixture should still appear slightly tacky when a skewer is inserted into the centre. Allow to cool in the tin, before lifting the brownies in the parchment onto a work surface. Use a large knife to cut across into 16 squares.

Try this: Add a nutty crunch to these brownies with some chopped roasted peanuts. If you want to avoid nuts, an alternative to peanut butter is to swirl salted caramel into the topping.

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